Khodorovski's interview with Zhanna Gromova

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Boris Khodorovski's interview with Zhanna Gromova for ria.ru

BK: Your collaboration with Slutskaya is unique. How were you able to find the way to communicate to the athlete when she was growing up and changing?
ZG: The unique thing about our collaboration is in Ira being a unique athlete. We were comfortable together and it was interesting working together when she was a little girl and when she became a champion. From the very young age figure skating was the number one priority for Ira. She didn't need to be pushed, she did not need to be controlled. It's also important her parents had the right set of mind. They were not bothering her and were not demanding she wins always and everything.

BK: Was Slutskaya offered to change coaches when things did not go well with you?
ZG: Many times. But she was interested and comfortable working with me. Though I can't tell she was an easy personality to deal with.

BK: When she came to the Goodwill games in St. Petersburg at the age of 15 she looked like an angel on the ice. But the angels don't survive there. Have you seen how with the age she grew a real champion character?
ZG: Let me remind you she got married at the age of 20. It was a tough moment for both me and the parents. It was the moment Slutskaya reached her first success and she had to combine the sport career and the private life. We were lucky that Irina was always supported by her relatives: the parents, the husband. Besides back at that time the Russian skaters were undermarked. The ladies were competing the last and no one was interested to add another gold medal to the 2nd or 3rd they already won. The real challenge was Slutskaya's comeback after her illness. When she became 9th at the Worlds 2004 in Dortmund and a lot hurried to write her off. But Ira became a World / European champion and the Olympic medalist after! That's the character.

BK: In both Olympics Slutskaya was having a very hard time accepting not winning. What were the words you told her in SLC and Turino?
ZG: Both in SLC and Turin she needed to be saved. She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Especially in SLC when she was calling her mom. I don't remember the exact words, but it was all about needing to move on. The skater needed to feel support, not just hear the words of comfort. Slutskaya did not become an Olympic champion, but she is a unique skater: in 3 Olympic cycles she won medals at both Worlds and Europeans. And most important - she was adored by the crowd. There was an army of her fans! I loved watching her skating myself. I really enjoyed it. Though it was quite a nervous experience near the border.

BK: Is it possible to convince the contemporary skaters, for whom the Olympic silver medal is a tragedy that skating for the crowd, the coach and themselves is the true happiness?
ZG: Of course for the girls who put everything on their Olympic win it's painful. I recall how Slutskaya was dealing with it. The understanding that a silver or a bronze medal is an achievement is something that they will realize later. As well as that the judging in figure skating is not objective. We don't have the distances and speeds to measure and the characters and elements that are perceived by the people whose point of view might differ from yours. The sport is cruel and is not always fair. And it's not just about the Russian skaters.

BK: You coached a lot of very interesting skaters except for Slutskaya. 20 years ago your pupil Ludmila Nelidina was landing a 3A and was attempting a 4T. Why back then didn't the ladies skating follow that route?
ZG: No one was ready for it. Most of all mentally. Though even back then the 15 and the 17y.o girls were skating differently. Just that there were no talks about the ladies skating being for the adults only. Back then the 15y.o. were showing the junior skating. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but today the ladies skating should be ladies'. The coaches tried to teach the girls to be gracious and artistic, that they would be nice to look at. Also back then the rules gave no preference to those who were landing the 3A.

BK: What do you think about the age raise that was recently decided?
ZG: It doesn't forbid the 13y.o from attempting the quads. Those who can - go ahead. But it will still be a juniors skating. Will the 17y.o. perform the mature skating? We'll see in a couple of years.

BK: What if the next step will be forbidding the quads in the juniors just like it is now forbidden in the SP?
ZG: I don't believe there will be such a decision. If the athlete can and want to land the quads why forbid it? I think we should inspire to make the juniors and the ladies skating different. We need to work on the components, on the deep understanding of the character. And let Trusova land her quads at the age of 18. You can't stop the progress.

BK: You were the first coach of Ilia Averbukh and Nikolai Morozov. Was it obvious back then they are the ice dancers and not single skaters?
ZG: They did not see themselves landing the triple jumps. Especially Ilia. He was born to be a dancer: good looking, artistic, musical. His mom wanted him to be an ice dancer and that's what he wanted himself. Though the gliding lessons they received helped them in their future career.
 

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